Mark 12:37

I. THE PERSONS THUS AFFECTED The reference of the words common people misunderstood Literally the expression is, "the great multitude" It was in temple, and must have comprehended all classes, especially the middle and upper; the very lowest being but sparsely represented. It was also nationally homogeneous - Jewish.

II. REASONS FOR THEIR BEING SO. Not on account of eloquence, or So-called popularity" of address. That the highest qualities were exhibited "goes without saying." The full splendour and majesty of Messianic teaching were exhibited. The Man himself was more, and felt to be more, than his words. Two circumstances lent a passing interest to his teaching: he exposed and defeated the religious pretenders of the day, Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers, whose true character the people's instinct felt had been revealed; and he appealed to the national religious spirit, in setting forth the true doctrine of the Messiah.


1. It showed that the deepest instincts of humanity are on the side of religion and Divine truth.

2. But it did not involve discipleship. Admiration, intellectual assent, even some wonder at what was truly Divine; but no moral conviction. There are many to whom the gospel is a thing gladly heard, but soon dismissed from the thoughts. It is in obedience and faith that the "glad tidings" are practically and permanently experienced by the human heart. - M.

And the common people heard Him gladly.
This passage refers to the reception given to the teachings of our Lord by the masses of the people.

I. The HEARERS OF CHRIST referred to in the text are designated "the common people." As the words in the original Greek mean, literally, "the great multitude," it has been suggested that the better rendering of the passage would be "the great multitude heard Him gladly." The revisers of the New Testament, however, have adhered to the rendering of the Authorized Version, and in the text of the Revised New Testament we have the long-familiar words, "the common people heard Him gladly," while the alternative rendering, "the great multitude," is relegated to the margin. A critic has remarked that in the words "the great multitude" there is no intended antithesis or opposition to the upper classes. This, to say the least, is questionable; but of this we are certain, that, whether any distinction of classes was intended or not, "the great multitude" necessarily includes the common people, By "the common people" is meant, in every country, the people without wealth, or power, or exalted rank, or intellectual culture, or refinement of manners. They are the vulgar, the uneducated, the lowly, the poor, the masses. The phrase "the common people" is suggestive of human inequality, and implies that the gradations of rank and class obtain amongst men. But why, and how, it may be asked, should there be these distinctions? Are not all men equal? To this I reply that in certain important senses all men are equal. All men are equal by natural descent, as the offspring of the same first parents. Then there is the base equality of natural depravity and guilt. Over the entire race is written the inspired description: "There is none righteous; no, not one." And, thank God, there is the blessed equality of a common redemption, an equal connection with the second Adam as with the first. Notwithstanding the universal equality of man in the essential aspects to which I have referred, there are other important respects, some of them natural, and some of them artificial, in which men are not equal. There are differences in physique, in stature, and strength, which are obvious to all. There are still greater differences to be found amongst the minds of men. And whilst the native and constitutional varieties of human intellect are numerous and great, these differences are further increased in number and variety by education and culture. The social inequalities which exist in society, and which are not removed, but are aggravated, by civilization, comprise, with other classes, the common people. However class distinctions may be disliked, they appear to be inevitable, at least to some extent, and in some variety. In recognizing the distinctions of ranks, classes, and conditions of men, we, as Christian preachers, recognize existing facts — facts which exist now, and which have always existed. The mission of the gospel, however, is to all men without distinction; and if the most numerous class, the great multitude, give it a favourable reception, it is a matter of thankfulness now, as it doubtless was when the Author of the gospel was a preacher of the gospel, causing the evangelist to make, in the midst of Christ's sayings, the abrupt record, "and the common people heard Him gladly."

II. THE RECEPTION GIVEN TO THE MINISTRY OF JESUS BY THE MASSES IS WORTHY OF THOUGHT AND INVESTIGATION. The question, Why did the common people hear Him gladly? is a very natural question, and is worthy of the best answer that can be given to it. The reasons for their gladness are not assigned, and must be gathered mainly from inference and from the hints of Scripture. No doubt the principal causes were connected with the character of the Great Teacher Himself; with the nature of the truths which He taught; with the style and methods of His teaching; and with the receptability of the hearers.

1. Jesus was no ordinary teacher, but in the singularity of His greatness stood out in marked contrast to the scribes and rabbis of His day, and even rose vastly superior to the ancient prophets of Israel, although grand to sublimity were the characters of these holy men of old. There is an impressiveness amounting to awe in the quiet self-assertion of His Messianic professions and Divine claims.

2. The favourable reception given by the masses to the ministry of Jesus may be further accounted for by the nature of the doctrines and precepts which He taught, and especially by the methods, style, spirit, and sympathetic feeling of His teachings. Not less striking was the system of morals which He set up and enforced. The common people heard Him gladly because of the tone of certainty with which He taught. This teaching, as beautiful as it was true, is intelligible to the humblest intellect. No wonder that at Jerusalem, when He taught in the temple, "the common people heard Him gladly."

III. THE TEXT IS SUGGESTIVE OF THE RELATIONS OF THE GOSPEL TO THE MASSES OF MEN NOW, AND TO THEIR ATTITUDE TOWARDS IT. The gospel is for the masses, because the gospel is for all. It comes with good news to every man, without distinction of rank or condition. The gospel, like the Sabbath, was made for man — for universal man. The impartial manner in which the Bible treats of the different classes of society is to me an additional proof of its Divine origin. Nor does it, on the other hand, denounce the less favoured classes, and call them "the swinish multitude," "the great unwashed," "the many-headed beast," "the canaille," "the dregs," "the scum." Such offensive language is never employed in that Holy Book, which teaches us to honour all men; which declares God to be the common Parent; "the Father of the spirits of all flesh"; which says, "The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all." And then, in consequence of the saving grace of God, it places all upon the one platform of common privilege and blessing. It levels up by dignifying the lowly; it levels down by clothing the lofty with humility; and it says to both, "Let the brother of low degree rejoice, in that he is exalted; but the rich in that he is made low." The masses should listen to the gospel now with delight, just as the common people in the days of our Lord heard with gladness the Author of the gospel Himself. To hear at all is a point gained, and is matter of thankfulness. The most deplorable characteristic of the masses of the wage-earning classes is their habitual absence from the house of God. They do not hear the gospel gladly, because they do not hear it at all. How to get the masses to hear the gospel is one of the great religious problems of the day. In order to success, the Christian ministry must enlarge upon the right theme. That theme is gospel truth, of which the atonement is the principal article, around which ethers are grouped. Hearing the gospel gladly is the duty and privilege of all alike — the rich man with his gold ring and goodly apparel and the poor man in vile raiment.

(T. M'Cullagh.)

The state of society in Palestine when Jesus appeared in one respect resembled that of our own age and country — the habit of going to the synagogue was for the most part restricted to the upper and middle classes, led by the scribes and Pharisees. The mass of the working people were "scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd." They had sunk into a state of general neglect of religion. To these common people Jesus Christ specially addressed Himself; for, while the learned men rejected Him, and sought only to entangle Him in His talk, these heard Him gladly, welcomed His discourses, recognized His Divine mission, and many of them repented at His reproof. We have an indication of this willingness on the part of the common people to hear Him, in the words of this text.

I. Leaving the context, however, we shall first make some remarks on the expression "The common people" — an English phrase, which, without being an exact translation of the original, sufficiently, well conveys its meaning. The common people: This is a description of the multitude of the population — comprising the whole of the working orders. The phrase implies that there are other sorts of people who are not so common, but fewer and scarcer, and distinguishable by certain eminent qualifications from the crowd around them. Well, there are everywhere such common people, and people less common. What makes the difference? Society is built up of three classes of men — those who have remarkable mind, those who have money and rank, and those who labour with their hands. The latter class are by far the most numerous. They are nearly a hundred to one of the others. These are the common people. The others are distinguished from the crowd by some personal qualification. Illustration: — There always will be a real difference between educated and uneducated men. A man may grow rich, and push his way up into the middle or higher classes; but, if his education has been neglected and his taste uncultivated, neither he nor his family will be able to establish themselves as the equals of their neighbours in a similar position of wealth. It is not an artificial — it is a real difference that separates the two. A cultivated rose really is a different flower from a dog rose that grows in a hedge; and not all the airs of the hedge flower will give it a place of equal rank with its betters. There is, and there ought to be, a difference in rank between educated and uneducated persons; and, so far as the differences in English society represent differences, not merely of wealth, but of mind and culture, you will never be able to break them down, except by converting the common people into uncommon. How very common many of the common people are — common in the sense of low and degraded in thought, in feeling, in habit, in speech, in character! It is sad to think how the wretched lives of the labouring multitude might be varied, and rendered infinitely more comfortable and respectable, if they would. The single particular of more cleanliness would itself double the comfort of life. The most sunken type of human life may be raised into a fellowship with saints and angels. The ladder Jacob saw was a glorious scale on which the lowest grade of humanity may rise to heaven and to God. This "common people" may all be clothed in glory, honour, and immortality, and put on forever the splendours of eternity. When, therefore, we look upon our own multitudes of common people, alienated from the redeeming influence, despising the ministers of Christianity, and abhorring the churches, we ask, Why is it that we have so sadly failed? When Jesus preached, the common people heard Him gladly; and, believing in Him, they were changed into the same image, and became the sons of God. What was it in His preaching that made them hear Him so gladly — that won their hearts, and drew them to Him and to God? Let us first mention two or three things that cannot be alleged as Christ's means of influencing the multitude.

1. It was not a comical, a jocose mode of address.

2. Neither did He seek to propitiate the common people by flattering them with the promise of great temporal and social rewards for adhering to His cause.

1. Then, the common people heard Him gladly, because of the great and obvious sincerity and disinterestedness of His character. All the suspicions which attended the ministrations of the Pharisees were absent from Him.

2. They heard Him willingly because of the spiritual depth of His doctrine, and the suitableness of His teaching to the mind of the populace. He did not approach them with a long array of puzzling articles and creeds, which a man must believe, or pretend to believe, or "without doubt perish everlasting." But He showed both His wisdom and His patience by teaching even His own apostles only "as they were able to bear it." Love is still more powerful than argument; or, rather, it is the most powerful of arguments.

3. I think we should mention that one of the most characteristic traits of our Lord's teaching was its perfect manliness and freedom from affectation.

4. Once more: Jesus commanded the attention of the common people because He spoke to them with a compassion which reached their hearts and won their affections.

(E. White.)

I. First, then, we have no quarrel with you because you are of the number of those who hear gladly. This is so far well. It is one of the deadliest symptoms of those who perish, that to them the preaching of the cross is foolishness. A very promising symptom most assuredly; and it may evidence the beginning of a good work which God may carry forward and bring to perfection.

II. But, secondly, though your hearing gladly be a promising symptom, it is not an infallible one. The common people of Jerusalem heard gladly; and we need not repeat the awful disaster and ruin which, in the course of a fear years, overtook the families of that common people.

III. But though to hear gladly be not an infallible symptom, yet to hear the whole truth gladly is a much more promising symptom than only to hear part of the truth gladly. We fear that it is this partial liking for the Word which forms the whole amount of their affection for it, with the great majority of professing Christians. They like one part; but they do not like another. Some like to hear of the privileges of the gospel; but they do not like to hear of the precepts of the gospel, and that the soul in whom Christ is formed the hope of glory, will purify itself even as Christ is pure.

IV. But lastly, if it do not follow that because a man is a delighted hearer of the word, he is therefore an obedient doer of it, how is he to become one? What is there which can bring relief to this melancholy helplessness? We assert that the glow of a warm and affecting impression is one thing, and the sturdiness of an enduring principle is another. We again, then, recur to the question, how shall we give the property of endurance to that which in time past has been so perishable and so momentary? The strength of your own natural purposes, it would appear, cannot do it. The power of argument cannot do it. The tongue of the minister, though he spake with the eloquence of an angel, cannot do it.

(Dr. Chalmers.)

Luther when preaching to a mixed assembly, said: "I perceive in the church Dr. Justus Jonas and Melancthon, and other learned doctors, Now, if I preach to their edification, what is to become of the rest? Therefore, by their leave, I shall forget that Dr. Jonas is here at all, and preach to the multitude." So must I do at this good hour, asking those of you who are advanced in the Divine life to unite your prayers with mine, that the word of the gospel may be blessed to the unconverted.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

We are all common people as to the ground covered by His teachings. The duties incumbent on us to God and man have in their principles, their motives, their spirit, no diversity corresponding to the differences of condition and culture. You cannot specify a primal obligation that admits of any exceptions. You can name none that belong to the highly endowed and privileged, but not to the simple and unlettered — none that appertain to the lowly, and not to those who hold a superior position in the social scale. The Sermon on the Mount may be all lived out by the labourer, the poor widow, the person whose intelligence and sphere of action are of the very narrowest; and at the same time there is no life so large, so high, so extended in its relations and responsibilities, that it may not find here all that it is bound to be and to do. Still more, we can conceive of no broader, fuller, loftier law of duty for the redeemed in heaven, or for any created being in the universe. As regards our trials and our griefs, too, we are all common people. There is no resource for high or low, when the heart is overwhelmed, but trust in Almighty love — no prayer that can bring an answer of peace, but "Father, Thy will, not mine, be done." In the presence of the mighty leveller Death we are all common people.

(A. Peabody, LL. D.)

Why did the common people hear Him gladly?

I. BECAUSE CHRIST GAVE A NEW AND BROADER MEANING TO RELIGION. He proclaimed God's love to all, Jew and Gentile. Christianity touches the great heart of humanity. Those who live at the bottom of society are, by nature, most open to conviction. They are governed largely by their feelings: but religion is a matter of feeling; it is love.

II. THE AFFECTIONS OF LIFE HAVE THEIR LARGEST SCOPE AND EFFECT AMONG THE LOWEST. He said, "Come unto Me, all ye weary," etc. Look at the manner of our Lord's preaching.

1. He spoke as one having authority; He revealed truth.

2. Much of our Lord's preaching was outside of synagogues, and in conversation with the people.

3. His ministry was in the "demonstration of the Spirit and with power."

(W. E. Griffith.)

In Greece and Italy, while a few superior minds acknowledged a spiritual worship, the common people were kept in brutish ignorance by the celebrated philosophers of Greece and Rome. In Hindostan, though the doctrines of their complicated faith are freely revealed to the Brahmins and their pupils, it is a law never to be violated that the sacred books shall be locked up from the bulk of the people, and the Paris, or lowest caste, is not only excluded from the common assemblies of the people, but forbidden even to enter the temples to pray or to sacrifice. Nay, the Gentoo code even enacts that, should a priest read the sacred books to the inferior orders, heated oil, wax, and melted tin shall be poured into his ears; and that, should any member of these classes get passages by heart, he shall instantly be put to death.

(Eastern Manners and Customs.)

Archbishop Tillotson, who has left imperishable memorials of his excellence in his sermons, as well as in the traditional reports of his voice and delivery, regarded it as the highest compliment ever paid him, when, on descending from the pulpit, he overheard a countryman who came to London to hear him, ask his friend with evident surprise, "Is that your great Archbishop? Why, he talks just like one of ourselves." And the greatest of all preachers, who "spake as never man spake," must have been characterized by the same sublime simplicity; for it is written of Him, "The common people heard Him gladly."

Mr. Hill always wished to be considered the apostle of the common people, in resemblance of Him whom the common people heard gladly, and in whose teaching "the poor had the Gospel preached unto them." But he who undertakes this work of faith and labour of love will find that he has not to address angels, and some. times hardly men. He will need to learn the advice which the philosopher was wont to give his pupils, "Study the people;" or that which Cromwell gave to his soldiers, "Fire low." Had his men fired high they would have done no more execution than some of our preachers, who shoot over their hearers' heads.

(Rowland Hill.)

"When an uninstructed multitude," says Nathaniel Hawthorne, "attempts to see with its eyes, it is exceedingly apt to be deceived. When, however, it forms its judgment, as it usually does, on the intuitions of its great and warm heart, the conclusions thus attained are often so unerring as to possess the character of truths supernaturally revealed."

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